It's a well known fact that the price of watching football these days is outrageous. To give you an example, I've supported Chelsea since the late 1970's, and the first time I went to a game in the early 1980's, it cost £3 to get in the ground, and 50p for a programme. Now it costs £60 to get in the ground and the programme is £3.50. So admission prices have gone up 2000% in roughly 25 years, and don't even get me started on the price of food and drink in the ground. Up until recently, I thought that racing offered much better value for money, and at a lot of courses it does, but the admission prices at some courses are just taking the p***.
The worst offender that I've come across is undoubtedly Doncaster. I go on St Leger day every year, and when I booked up in advance this year on their web site, I was pretty shocked by the prices. £30 to get in Tattersalls, and a whopping £48 for Members, and that includes the early booking discount, as it's £50 on the day. Yes that's right - FIFTY ENGLISH POUNDS !!!!!
St Leger day is a decent card, but is it really 80% as good as the Cheltenham Festival, which is £60 advance for the first 3 days. No it bloody well isn't. You've got a group 1, 2 group 2's, and the rest is handicaps. Let's face it , the St Leger these days is a trial race for staying novice hurdles the following season, and a showcase for future national hunt stallions. You also got the group 1 sprint cup this year, but that was transferred from Haydock which was abandoned the week before, so that was a bonus that you wouldn't otherwise have got.
Compare this to Ascot's King George meeting in July, the Saturday costs £40 for the club enclosure, and is a better quality card, or the Saturday of Cheltenham's Paddy Power meeting, which is one of their best meetings outside of the festival, just £30 for the club enclosure. Hennessy day at Newbury is £40, King George day at Kempton is £45. St Leger day compares very unfavourably to all of these, yet is more expensive than any of them.
On top of the outrageous admission prices, you now have to fork out another £5 to park your car, which was previously free of charge. There's no free alternative either, apart from some poxy park and ride scheme from the football stadium, and if you've just driven (in my case), 120 miles, the last thing you want to do is catch a sodding bus. They also make it as hard as possible to get the car park badges, instead of selling them with the tickets on the website like every other course does, you have to buy them over the phone. Also, when you buy one of these, you don't get a choice of which car park you go in. If you 're in the club enclosure and they put you in the car park near the 2 furlong pole, as they did me, it's a very long walk to and from the club enclosure entrance. Being able bodied and in reasonable health, this is no problem for Ivor Donkey (especially on the way out as I'm usually lighter than I was on the way in due to the fact I'm carrying a lot less money), but for older or less able bodied people, it might be a bit of a struggle. Besides all of that, the car park that I was in is also rough, uneven and totally s**t. It says on Doncaster's website that cars are parked in the course car parks at the owners risk. Are they talking about the risk of theft, or the risk of knackering your suspension?
I've seen plenty of letters in the Racing Post saying what a rip off Doncaster is, so let's hope people vote with their feet and the sight of half empty grandstands makes their bone headed management see sense. If the prices aren't reduced next season, Ivor Donkey certainly won't be attending.
Doncaster is by far the worst, but they're by no means the only rip off merchants.
For those of you who have never visited a racecourse before, allow me to fill in the blanks regarding levels of admission. There are usually three choices of enclosure, firstly there is the members (or club) enclosure, which offers the best facilities and race viewing, access to all areas of the racecourse, and consequently is the most expensive. Secondly there is the tattersalls (or grandstand) enclosure, which is generally about two thirds of the price of members to get into. This offers lesser facilities than members, with access to all areas of the racecourse bar the members enclosure. Finally there is the silver ring, which offers no access to the parade ring and winners enclosure, no grandstand, and is usually a fair way from the finish. This is generally about a third of the price of the members enclosure.
So if you've paid the most money to enter the members enclosure, you'd have every right to expect it to be the best, but unfortunately for members patrons, this is not always the case. In fact, at quite a few courses the tattersalls enclosure is far superior to members.
Hereford would be a prime example, because the tattersalls enclosure overlooks the finishing line, whereas members is right down near the last fence. The parade ring is nearer tattersalls than members, and the facilities in each enclosure aren't markedly different. You can have a meal with table service in members, but I've never had a sit down meal at a racecourse in my life and have no intention of doing so. You can buy decent food in the tattersalls grandstand or any of the fast food vans outside for that matter, so there's no point paying extra to go in members.
Huntingdon is another good example, for all of the reasons mentioned above, but mainly due to the vastly superior viewing in tattersalls. The grandstand is the same height in both enclosures because it's the same grandstand divided in two. Not only is the finishing line in front of the tattersalls enclosure, but also the open ditch soon after the finish, which as anyone who's ever been there will tell you makes for exciting viewing. So don't ever go in members at Huntingdon, it's a waste of money. This is true at Worcester as well, the tattersalls stand is better situated for race viewing, and going in members offers no advantage.
Nottingham is another one, the members grandstand there is totally crap, and designed mainly for corporate hospitality, is too low and too small. It is also past the finishing line so is hopeless for race viewing. The tattersalls stand has it's faults (too many pillars along the front), but offers much better viewing. So the members enclosure at Nottingham is best avoided as well.
You're better off in tattersalls at Wolverhampton too, the members stand is level with the finish, but the tattersalls stand is much bigger, higher, and offers a much better view of the racecourse. The members stand is just too low, which is not helped by the fact that the track is as flat as a pancake.
Tattersalls is also better at Windsor, as the grandstand is a lot better, the one in members has probably been there since Queen Victoria was on the throne and offers crap viewing as it's at the wrong angle to the course. To be fair, the tattersalls grandstand is at the wrong angle too, but it's much more comfortable and modern.
So when you go racing, don't automatically assume that the most expensive enclosure is the best, because in a lot of cases it isn't.